A great way to broaden your horizons in photography is to try out something new. In some cases, that will be a different technique, and in others, this will be using new gear. In this article, you will see four different kinds of camera equipment to help you get creative.
The obvious new gear for you as a photographer is a new lens. But there are other options though, and these will be explored in this article. Of course, it’s not the best idea to get new equipment until you have thoroughly mastered what you already own. But there comes a time when further growth needs some investment. Luckily there are options for all budgets, and there are so many items to explore.
The tripod is my number one pick for camera equipment to get creative.
1 – Is the tripod the best camera equipment to get creative?
What the best purchase you’ll ever make as a photographer? If you were to say a tripod you’d not be far off, as bang for your buck this is the best value piece of equipment you can buy. Once you have learned to properly master the various techniques that a tripod opens up for you, it will be a permanent fixture in your bag.
With such an important item it’s worth spending a little more money to get good quality one, and it’s still great value for the creativity this will then offer. So what kind of photographic opportunities does having a tripod open up?
For this photo, I used an ND1000 filter, which allowed long enough exposure to capture motion in the sky.
- Self-portrait – If you want professional level portraits, ditch the selfie stick and use a tripod. This will allow you to join group photos with your friends. Setting the camera on a tripod, and using the camera’s self-timer will allow you to put yourself in the frame.
- Bracketing your photos – This means setting your camera up to take three or more photos in rapid fire. These photos will usually be one exposure value apart, so typically -1, 0 and +1 EV. This will allow you to experiment with HDR photography or the more advanced skill of digital blending.
- Long exposure – Any kind of long exposure needs a good quality tripod. There are so many options available to you once you are exposing for one second or longer. Long exposure is the subject of multiple articles, examples of the types of photographs you can take are; Infrared, Astro-photography, light painting and long exposures of moving water.
- A light stand – A tripod can double as a light stand when using strobes. Using off-camera flash is great for portrait photography, so this is yet another use for a tripod.
2 – Light up your world
A strobe combined with a radio trigger is a great creative tool.
As photography is the art of using light to create images, so the strobe is a very good piece of camera equipment to help you be creative. Take care to make sure the strobe is compatible with your camera, the wrong brand can fry the electronics in your camera.
If you are wishing for the best value you can look at the second-hand market, as getting more than one strobe will give you many more options. The title here is lighting gear, as a strobe on its own won’t give you maximum creativity. The purchase of radio triggers and receivers, for doing off-camera flash is also a great idea.
The use of color gels in this photo adds more interest to this portrait.
Tips for using flash
- Enhance those details – Use a strobe (speedlight) to light a surface such as bank notes, or a brick wall. With the light coming in from the side you will get a lot more texture and detail in your photo.
- Throw shadows – Use your strobe to throw scary shadows, for the night is dark and full of terrors! Alternatively, you could make a heart shape from a ring, by placing it on a book.
- See the world in color – The addition of color gels to the front of your flash can make for some nice creative photography. How about experimenting with complementary (opposite) colors? This can work nicely for portrait photos, or you can use the gels to color a background wall.
- Studio level photos – This is an entire genre and whether you’re interested in portrait photos, or still life photography you could do a lot worse than checking out the strobist.
Do you want something to go with your lighting gear that’s travel size? The Rogue Flashbender is a great off-camera lighting accessory that works both as a soft-box, and as a snoot.
3 – Get that creative filter on
There are so many filters to choose from, and they are among the most affordable pieces of camera gear.
Prior to Instagram adding a filter to your photo meant adding something to the front of your lens. This is really camera gear to get creative with. Let’s take a look at some of the most important lens filters you can use in photography.
- Circular Polarizing Filter – This is often referred to as a CPL. This has the effect of polarizing the light, so only light from one direction enters the camera. This can be used to either enhance reflections or eliminate them from reflective surfaces such as water. The CPL will also give color images more punch, and on cloudy days you can adjust the filter by rotating it and see the clouds pop out of the frame.
- Neutral Density Filters – As above, these are commonly referred to in shorthand as ND filters. They have the effect of reducing the amount of light coming into the camera. This is useful when you wish to use a large aperture on a bright sunny day. The filters come in gradients, typically ND2, ND4, and ND8. ND2 is the weakest of these filters. At the more extreme end of the scale are filters like the ND110, or even the ND1000 (10-stops). These more extreme filters are used by landscape photographers for daytime long exposures.
- Graduated filters – The most common of these are the graduated ND filters, used by landscape photographers to balance the light across the frame. The next most common in this category are sunset filters, that color half the sky in a specific color such as orange or red.
- The best of the rest – Black and white film photographers will often use red, orange, or yellow filters to enhance the contrast in their scene. Another popular type of filter is the starburst, that makes light sources appear like stars.
Infrared photography can be great fun to experiment with.
4 – Specialist camera equipment
In addition to the above, there is some very good niche specific camera equipment to get creative with. These will allow you to take outstanding images, with the effect produced in camera.
- The Pixelstick – This is a great tool for light painting that will take your photos to a different level. This allows you to fully control the light that’s emitted, and even program in your own patterns. The cheaper variant is to use a glow stick, or fairy lights attached to a stick. The ability to fully program the light source though makes the pixelstick a creative beast.
- A glass ball – A personal favorite of mine is the glass ball. This can be used for refraction photography and could be referred to as an external lens optic that you carry around with you. If you think of this as a lens, it’s, without a doubt, the cheapest lens you’ll ever buy. Those that want to learn more can read my previous article on this, or perhaps follow the links in my bio below.
- The dripkit – Have you ever tried your hand and water drop photography? If you haven’t you really should, it’s a ton of fun. The next level up here is the dripkit, which allows you to control every aspect of these types of photo. With the dripkit, you can now create some out of this world splash photography. Truly this is a camera equipment accessory to get creative.
This photo of Boston was taken through a glass ball.
Which gear is most interesting to you?
There are so many choices when it comes to camera equipment to help you get creative. The choice of gear you use is down to personal taste.
Here at dPS, we would love to hear your experiences. Have you tried any of the above pieces of equipment? Is there any other gear you’ve used that’s not mentioned here, something that really took your photography in a new direction? Let’s hear from you whether you’ve already tried any of these, or if you are thinking about taking the plunge.
This photo was taken in a single frame. The strobe was used to throw a self-portrait shadow on the wall. The tripod was used as this is a long exposure, also freeing me up to both light paint, and be in the frame. Finally, the light painting was produced using a pixelstick.